Law firm leaders are facing staggering challenges against a backdrop of increasing uncertainty.

Covid-19 has created physical distance between our workplaces and communities, and we have had to adapt overnight to new ways of keeping in touch with our people and motivating our workforces.

These new challenges have added to the more business-as-usual pressures of running a successful law firm. They call for law firm leaders to think carefully about what has worked well in the past, and how to apply and evolve that thinking to the new normal.

Here at Byfield, as a communication specialist that works with law firm leaders day in, day out, we felt we were in a good position to carry out some research on what law firm leaders think the top business risks are now – amid everything that’s happening.  

So, we partnered with the London Business School to survey 20 leaders of the top 200 law firms and to conduct 10 interviews to gain further insights from them. From the data we collected, we found that there were ultimately six main concerns that law firm leaders had in common.

Download The Six Things Keeping Managing Partners Awake at Night.


1. Cash flow

It is often said that a crisis focuses the mind on the business fundamentals and getting the basics right. The month of March this year was engulfed in panic. And, predictably, this means cash flow came up top among the concerns cited by managing partners. Immediate decisions had to be taken on firm spend, while the potential for clients not being able to pay being a major concern, too.

Less predictable, however, were our discoveries about things such as how confident managing partners are about client retention, how they feel about resource allocation, and what they think will turn the issue of cash flow around. 


2. Employee wellbeing

Managing partners were next most concerned about employee wellbeing, with 80% of respondents citing employee wellbeing and safety as a key challenge. The pandemic posed a challenge not seen in modern times. And when the new work-from-home reality began, the concern for employee wellbeing, safety and motivation inevitably grew.


3. Client service

Managing partners are rightly worried about their ability to maintain high-quality client service. Covid-19 has clearly exacerbated the challenge of maintaining high-quality client service when so much of the tried and tested methods of interacting with clients and providing teams to work together physically to solve their problems has shifted. Face-to-face meetings are still a rarity. And the creative, problem-solving advantages that come from being in a meeting room with colleagues and being able to share documents by hand have been somewhat hampered by the Zoom experience.


4. Brexit

Remember Brexit? In the neural networks of the legal sector, Covid-19 has nudged Brexit into long-term memory storage. But it still ranks highly on the list of business concerns for managing partners. And for good reason. Many key tenets of the agreement are yet to be established. And as the global economy washes up on the shores of the Covid-19 economic crisis, Brexit may well leave the UK out at sea.


5. Data or regulatory breach

In 2017, we surveyed law firms on how they perceive the threat of cyber-security. 64% of respondents believed that cyber-security posed a serious challenge to their firm’s reputation. In The Six Things Keeping Managing Partners Awake at Night, 100% of our respondents cited cyber-security as a major reputational threat. Covid-19, and the need for a workforce to be remote has quite clearly exacerbated the fear of a data breach.


6. Professional negligence 

As far back as March, media and market commentators have been talking about a coming deluge of pandemic litigation. With force majeure, employment disputes and companies going bust, certain departments have been markedly busy.

But the extent to which lawyers themselves will be on the receiving end of litigation remains to be seen. After the 2008 financial crisis, the City of London saw a wave of professional advisers caught up in litigation. Many of the managing partners we surveyed are concerned about professional negligence posing a risk to the reputations of their firms.


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In this turbulent chapter of history, it is worth remembering that law firms are people businesses: your value is your people, and your clients are people. The sectors you serve will continue to be impacted in myriad ways. And, conversely, there are business risks everywhere.

While keeping on top of these risks and responding in as best time you have available is your chief task, there’s one thing law firm leaders cannot afford not to do: communicate.

Running a firm whose strength is its people through a screen is far from easy. Since the crisis started, we have been talking to managing partners on many areas of communication, such as advising on how to impart difficult news to staff and still be respected as a leader, how good internal communication can keep employees motivated and how to make effective communication plans as we head further into the unknown.

The report includes advice to managing partners on the current six most important communication areas in the new normal. Ultimately, we feel, understanding the ingredients that make and shape a strong reputation is key to emerging from this crisis, reputation intact. 


Download the report

Download The Six Things Keeping Managing Partners Awake at Night to find out and read about the full set of statistics on how managing partners have been impacted by the pandemic and to read about these six communication challenges and how they can help.


How we can help you

Byfield is also offering managing partners and their teams a free one-hour consultation via video conference with Managing Director Gus Sellitto and Associate Director Kimberley Nanson. This is a chance for you to discuss with us your current business and reputational concerns, and for us to help you apply the six communication areas to meet your challenges.   

Download the report to see more details about the free consultation and for details of how to book.